Thursday, January 3, 2013

So, You Are An Album Reviewer?

     I think Blacklisted is on a very short list of bands that matter.
     -Patrick Kindlon

     Man loves his hyperbole, but on Blacklisted, he's no bullshit. 
   In America, So, You Are A Magician? is a 3 song seven inch or digital download. In Japan, ...Magician is a 6 (or 10) song MCD. I'll talk about America first, then Japan.

     Recorded cleanly in Will Yip's Studio Four, ...Magician sounds, for want of a better descriptor, more punk than the No One Deserves To Be Here More Than Me sessions. There's less ornamentation than No One.... Every instrument sounds like it's supposed to. The drums sound crisp, the bass like it's being exhumed out of a swamp and the guitar noisy.
     Of the three new songs, "Mentalist" and "Copper Fields" are aggressive and fairly straight-forward. "Copper Fields" is also Blacklisted's best song to date. It's just as strong lyrically as "Skeletons", as catchy as "I Am Weighing Me Down" and hits Joe Strummer's sweet spot of 2:59. iTunes says I've listened to it thirty times. That number sounds low. I'm scared to see what my cell phone says about that number. It could double that one, easy. I don't think it's Blacklisted's first foray with a verse chorus verse chorus structure, but the elements that comprise it are stronger than any other song they've written to date.
     "Houdini Blues" is a song about suicide, a slow, bluesy number, via sludge. It's a little melodramatic, but hey. It's a song about suicide. The band earns it.
     I think what's strongest, or at least most interesting about ...Magician is Mr. Hirsch's use of stage magic and slight of hand as a metaphor for his disintegrating relationships. "Mentalist" is the most candid of the songs, "Copper Fields" the most dedicated to theme and "Houdini Blues" balances the two.
     The other 3 or 7 songs are two post-No One… songs, an interesting but not definitive demo of "Stations" and what I take to be the BBC session. Technically, the BBC session is the work of an error of unspecified origin, presumably not to be reprinted.
     Of the two newish tracks, "Those Shields Around You" is the standout and stands as another highlight in their discography. It catalogs Hirsch's attempts to break through the walls between him and a woman alongside his own more esoteric interests. "Do you still believe what they say about my sign? /A Virgo, modest and shy / You grow gardens and love cats / I listen to Stephin Merrit and believe in vampire bats. Little do our friends know, this is us both at our most irreconcilable."
     I'm not sure I would buy the BBC session on its own, but I crave truly complete discographies I'll never give another listen to. The band jams out a bit on "Circuit Breaker" and trims a good half minute of guitar feedback from the end of "Shields". The trimming was a wise move, I think.

     Since Peace On Earth, War On Stage, Blacklisted's a band that mutates from LP to LP (like my beloved Crime In Stereo or even Kindlon's own Self Defense Family), so it might be a whole new sounds by the time a person gets around to buying the new record, which makes breather moments like this a great time to catch up. The music's great and Hirsch's only growing stranger.
     I'm filing the CD in the b-sides collection folder of my mind, but right now, it's a valuable snapshot of yet another Blacklisted taking form. For you? Don't wait for the inevitable Deathwish collection, go grab this from Six Feet Under however they're hawking it. And since Deathwish, it appears, does SFU's digital delivery now, you'll be going to Deathwish anyway.

     If you want "Copper Fields," you can find it in the post directly before this one. It was one of my favorite songs of last year and it's still worth your time this or any subsequent year. Really, all you have to do is scroll down. Console yourself with the first track, " Mentalist."
     When Jordan and I interviewed Jake Bannon (the co-founder of Deathwish Inc.), I asked him about what band would get the label's then-unknown release number 100. His response was that "no other band deserves the release number any more in my opinion." He was referring to Blacklisted. This review, of course, is the 100th blog on here. Perhaps only Crime In Stereo deserves it more...

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